Leicester

Mission Malawi: Volunteers from the East Midlands build a school in Africa

BBC East Midlands Today presenter Anne Davies in Malawi, Africa
Image caption Hundreds of children are waiting for the start of a new project in Malawi

Five years ago a Leicestershire student was so touched by the people of Malawi, poverty in Africa and the plight of its orphans that she decided to try and do something about it.

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Media captionAlice Pulford, from Rothley, Leicestershire, set-up the charity LoveTilinanu

The LoveTilinanu project was the brainchild of Alice Pulford, from Rothley.

I've travelled to Malawi in south-eastern Africa with video journalist Paul Bradshaw to follow her story and that of 15 builders from the East Midlands.

Malawi is a landlocked country formerly known as Nyassaland.

It has another name too - the heart of Africa - and it was this heart that touched Alice on her gap year, and has subsequently affected the lives of hundreds of children.

But none of this could have been done without the huge efforts and support from the people of the East Midlands.

Image caption Video journalist Paul Bradshaw gets footage of some of the Malawian village ladies about to show off their dancing skills

Aids has consumed a whole generation in Africa leaving thousands of orphans to live as best they can - either with grandparents or with no one at all.

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Media captionBuilders from the East Midlands have been helping a student who set up a charity in Malawi

So the first step for Alice was to build an orphanage called Tilinanu which is located in the suburbs of the capital Lilongwe.

Now five years on, we meet the 34 girls who live there - girls with a future, girls who sing and smile and now have something to live for.

But the charity LoveTilinanu has not stopped there.

Boys are being fostered out to widows in the village. It gives them the love of a mother and the security of a home. It gives the women a reason to live and a small income to help them survive.

The charity also reaches beyond the city suburbs. It is not every day you drive an hour into the bush past little huts with earth floors, no electricity and no running water, to be met by smiling children dressed in uniforms donated from Leicestershire schools, Grace Dieu, Fairfield Prep and Ratcliffe College.

Image caption Anne Davies said: "The generosity from schools in Leicestershire has been huge and never has an old uniform or pair of shoes gone to a better place."

But that is just what happens, all thanks to the generosity of pupils, parents and teachers.

And it is out there an hour down dusty bumpy tracks that our builders travel early every morning to give the hundreds of impoverished children that live in this area a gift that is almost priceless - the gift of a school.

Phillip Hughes, from the Nottingham-based company P Hughes Construction Limited and his men from Swadlincote, East Leake, Wymeswold, Lincoln and Burton-on-Trent are performing a near miracle.

They are building a school in 10 days.

They have paid for it all themselves but as they all agree - it is one of the best things they have ever done.

Hundreds of children now receive a bowl of porridge every day thanks to another project set up in conjunction with the Malawian government, but the only real way out of poverty is through education.

Thanks to Alice, her sister Nina and their mother Yvonne, the charity and its East Midlands supporters have helped a little part of Malawi to take a step closer to a better life.

Image caption Anne Davies said: "Orphaned boys have found a new happiness in their new foster home, thanks to Yvonne Pulford and her extraordinary daughters Alice and Nina."

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